With the holidays now behind us, a new year offers a fresh start, but sometimes, there are still bills to pay from the gift buying, travel expenses, and festivities that accompany the holiday season. This potential money stress can also combine with feelings of sadness or moodiness that some people experience during the winter months. To help overcome post-holiday stress and boost mental health, here’s a closer look at winter wellness and ways to lower money stress all year long.
For many places in the country, winter means dark and cold days with reduced sunlight. This means more time spent indoors, less vitamin D, and not as much time being active. Being cooped up inside can be difficult for anyone, but for someone who has a mental illness or experiences seasonal depression, this time of year can be especially challenging. Typically, holiday blues are temporary, but feelings of depression or anxiety during this time of year can sometimes turn into a long-term condition. Understanding how winter can affect mental health and which resources may be able to help can allow you to navigate this time of year more successfully and find ways to improve winter wellness.
Without focusing on wellness, financial stressors, and other unexpected life events can become larger issues, making it harder to set yourself up for long-term success. Making wellness and self-care a priority, like getting exercise, eating a balanced diet, staying socially engaged, and keeping up with your favorite hobbies, can help lessen the effect of winter on mental health.
People who experience sadness, fatigue, sleep disturbances, frustration, and tension during the winter may suffer from the winter blues.1 These symptoms are not uncommon and typically get better once spring arrives. When the feelings of stress and sadness are more intense and longer lasting, there may be a more serious mental health condition going on.
Since wintertime often comes with reduced sunlight, there can be a drop in a brain chemical known as serotonin that affects mood. This may lead to feelings of severe sadness, eating and sleeping issues, and social withdrawal. Seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, is a complex disorder and can be more disruptive to day-to-day life. There are several ways to reduce the effects of SAD, including seeking professional mental health services if needed.
Research2 shows a strong link between financial worries and mental health. You can easily become overwhelmed if you’re facing economic hardship or feel stressed by debt, mounting bills, or other financial strains. Add in the financial demands of the holidays, and your mood can be drastically affected. Understanding your personal feelings associated with money management and finding ways to lessen overspending and stick to a budget can help reduce financial stress and improve overall wellness.
Since winter blues and financial stress can often be connected, taking steps to overcome both may lead to better luck and lessen their effect on your overall well-being. Here are some helpful tips for getting finances in order and beating the winter blues.
If you’re feeling down or suffering from the winter blues, it may be wise to avoid making important financial decisions, like relocating to a new city or purchasing a house. You may also want to pay close attention to your spending if you make non-essential purchases when you feel low. When you’re confident in your financial situation and money management skills, smart money decisions often come.
Many holiday shoppers use credit cards to cover the additional expenses that can come with the season. Head into the New Year with a clear financial plan that includes paying down debt as soon as possible. See what spending can be cut from this month's budget to allocate toward paying debt instead. Use being stuck indoors to your advantage and engage with free entertainment and family time so portions of your typical entertainment budget can go toward paying off debt.
If you received a gift card from Target for the holidays, consider buying household essentials like groceries rather than random goodies. This can help put more money toward the essentials instead of bringing home items you really don’t need.
Connecting with loved ones can lift your spirits and help you feel recharged. Schedule a phone call or FaceTime if you cannot visit in person. You may also seek the guidance of a trusted friend or family member to receive financial guidance or just to have a safe place to vent and find moral support.
Often, getting your feelings and worries down on paper can help lessen their impact on your mental health. Whether their financial concerns, personal issues, or anything in between, take time to jot each down. This method may also help work through a problem and find a solution. If you’re especially stressed at bedtime, write down everything you’re worried about and put it aside until tomorrow. You may find that getting it out can make these worries less overwhelming.
With more time spent inside, it can be tempting to camp out in front of the TV or scroll on your phone. Limit your screen time, especially in the evenings, and take breaks from the news and social media. Replace this time with enjoyable activities, like playing a game with your family, listening to music, or cooking a favorite meal.
When experiencing winter blues, it’s a good idea to find activities and daily practices that help boost your mood. Exercise, meditation, aromatherapy, listening to comedy podcasts, or watching a funny movie can all be positive ways to improve your winter wellness. Seeking help from a mental health professional3 or counselor can also be very beneficial in combating seasonal depression and finding the support and solutions that you need.
Reducing money stress can sometimes seem impossible, but taking proactive steps to healthy money management can support confident financial decisions and help prevent more minor financial issues from becoming larger. Turn your focus toward what you can control, whether refining your budget, creating a payment plan to reduce debt, or automatically depositing money into savings. You can also minimize money stress by seeking the expert guidance of a financial professional. Together, you can create a customized financial plan that aligns with your goals, helps you feel more in control of your money, and supports good money habits all year.
1. Mayo Clinic, Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), 2021
2. National Library of Medicine, The Relationship Between Financial Worries and Psychological Distress Among U.S. Adults, 2022
3.Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration, SAMHSA’s National Helpline, June, 2023
The term financial professional is not intended to imply engagement in an advisory business in which compensation is not related to sales. Financial professionals that are insurance licensed will be paid a commission on the sale of an insurance product.